As someone who craves anything leftfield, I rejoiced at the release of Yves Tumor’s latest material: Heaven to a Tortured Mind, their third album, released on Warp, follows on from 2018’s epic Safe in The Hands of Love, and the awesome, Serpent Music of 2016. At such a young age, Yves Tumor (the alias of Sean Bowie) is one of the most idiosyncratic figures in the art-pop genre. Not since the late Genesis P-Orridge has a figure become so controversial in the art they perform and produce. Tumor has, in their own right, become a breath of fresh air to the alternative scene and their influences range from Prince to Throbbing Gristle. From humble beginnings in Knoxville Tennessee, Tumor began at 15 influenced by Hendrix and Nirvana using Garage band, before moving to electronic music where the foundations of his leftfield route into music were built.
This latest album is a great continuation of the experimental enigmatic sounds that Tumor presents, featuring tracks that allow you to slip away into the musical subconscious. The album’s opener ‘Gospel for a New Century’ is an anthemic footprint from the off. This song gives a sudden alertness with the delayed silence in the opening beats of the song, leaving an unpredictability in the build-up to the lyrics. Tumor’s vocal style in this song combines a sharp-edged hip-hop melody with an alternative yowl reflecting the gospel nature of the song. Gospel for a New Century echoes a certain spirituality rooted deep within himself. In an interview with Pitchfork in 2017, he described his own spirituality as being, “very real, but it’s not something I discuss with too many people.”
The standout tracks from this record unwittingly make their mark – the heavy abrasiveness of ‘Medicine Burn’ to ‘Kerosene’s’ poetic tragedy. These are tracks that blend contemporary hip-hop and art-rock that expands your mind each time you listen, and it is likely to expand your record collection. The short instrumental snip ‘Asteroid Blues’ eerily evokes the grinding of cogs in machinery, while echoes of child screams evoke abandoned playgrounds, an image relevant today.
This album demonstrates an innovative move from Tumor to create an experimental record that paradoxically fits well in modernity by branching out into multiple genres that make it a musical collage of sorts. However, I think Tumor builds from the past. The use of drum loops, sequencers and the “cut up” technique, was manifested from the Industrial revolution in the 1970s with Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire at the forefront of it. It provides a strange comfort in a way Industrial does not. That being said, Tumor provides an exceptional record that creates a brilliant but brutal feel while you listen to it. Their daring ambition of creating an experimental piece of art certainly pays off well in this record, at times a work of genius.For Yves Tumor, this record is his stamp on the hall of music misfits that have preceded them. Heaven to a Tortured Mind has become the new 20 Jazz Funk Greats, where the sound is shockingly brilliant and highly innovative. They have created something that is high art disguised in an unconventional low culture form a gem in the musical counterculture crown.